The taxi protest in the Western Cape has shuttered clinics at the same time as the number of people needing treatment for violent injury has spiked.
Clinics and hospitals are operating on skeleton staff as transport in Cape Town has been jeopardised by the taxi protest. Healthcare facilities have suffered as neither nurses nor patients have been able to reach them, with several closed and vandalised. The protest which has seen the burning of buses and cars and resulted in five deaths, according to the police minister, has entered its seventh day today.
According to the provincial department of health and wellness, the protest has resulted in staff being unable to report for work, facilities having to close or operate at reduced capacity, elective surgeries being postponed, and longer waiting times at clinics and outpatient departments.
On Thursday, the department said that five day hospitals in the metro have closed down. Nolungile Community Day Centre in Site C near the taxi rank is one of them. When Elitsha visited the centre earlier today, it was still closed with the windows near the entrance shuttered and burn marks on the walls. According to the department, the day hospital was vandalised and burned on Tuesday while it was closed.
“I am deeply disappointed in the incidents of vandalism and arson that have taken place at Nolungile CHC, which occurred even after it was closed yesterday. It is beyond me that anyone would wish to damage a place that is meant to provide safety and health to residents,” said Western Cape MEC for Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.
Nolungile CDC was vandalised and looted on Tuesday.
Khayelitsha Health Forum chairperson, Mzanywa Ndibongo said he is in disbelief that people are
destroying facilities that are essential to them. “The impact of the strike on patients is big, both to staff and patients… [We are in] disbelief that there are people who can destroy the very facilities that they need to help them, and harm the very people that must help them,” said Ndibongo.
The attack on the clinic has also been condemned by the People’s Health Movement (PHM). While they recognise the right of taxi drivers to strike, its impact on healthcare has only been negative. “We are much concerned about mental, social, physical, and spiritual health and wellness in the community, especially children, women and other vulnerable group. And it is the poor working class that is largely affected,” said Tinashe Njanji, national coordinator of PHM.
There have been more patients admitted for violent injuries. The Khayelitsha Health Forum says there have been delays in administering treatment and an inability to transfer or discharge patients.
Emergency services have also been affected as they are being targeted, with families not able to visit or collect their loved ones as it has become a risk to travel, according to Ndibongo. “Staff who can not drive to areas of work are encouraged to report to the nearest facilities, resulting in service continuity and minimal disruptions,” said Ndibongo.